Thoughts on “The Mighty Macs”

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My oldest daughter saw this movie with her basketball coach and team earlier in the year, so we decided to rent it last night. Overall, I thought it was predictable and somewhat boring. It shows the same sort of strolling coach spouting motivational rhetoric while the players endure their harsh training, all in the name of building Team. This coaching process is not wrong and works, but was done mechanically in the movie. You knew they were underdogs and the team would come back to win, making that last free throw shot. Etc. The power of the movie, for me, did not rest on this merit, but on the glimpse it gives us into the perspective of the woman in 1971.

What Coach Cathy Rush had to battle was a culture that asked, “You’re married…why do you want to work?” Being a man surrounded by competent women every day, it is not a concept I bump into often. The girls on this team didn’t even understand how to dream of something big—or, maybe not that; maybe they could dream big, but they didn’t realize that they could actually achieve it! The use of the pins “We will be #1” underscores the coach’s drive to instill in everyone that they can do it.

Another good example from the movie was the scene where Rush visited Lizanne. Lizanne’s boyfriend had just broken up with her and she was distraught. Rush helps her to see that her worth should not be based on this boy. She asks, “What is he going to miss about you?” Lizanne starts to list all the true and positive things about herself and emerges from the codependency.

I thought the movie, in general, portrayed the church, sterilized. It was stiff and outwardly reverent. The head masters seemed more pragmatic and business-like. Perhaps this is the way catholic schools are, I don’t know, but there was very little biblical references. God does seem to answer Sister Sunday’s prayer almost immediately, though, interrupting her earnestness with the sounds of dribbling and whistles. It was humourous. I thought the nuns funny and personable in their growing game attendance and cheering. But there is nothing useful taken from the Bible, other than the coach’s reference to 1 Cor 9:24 during one of their games:

“Do you not know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.”

If only Rush would have continued with v.25:

“Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. However, they do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one.”

I think there is some irony here. Paul takes a social model and makes a spiritual application. He uses the race and the mindset of an athlete to encourage that same type of mindset in spiritual living.  Rush, however, takes that spiritual application to rebuild that social model in her athletes. She, seemingly, trades the spiritual crown for the physical one.

I was talking to my daughter yesterday about the sting of death, before we watched the movie (or even thought of renting it). Our neighbor across the street used to have such a great lawn. He would spray for weeds, mulch up around his bushes and fresh flowers, and prune his hedges perfectly. Last year he moved back to New York, and the house has been vacant since. A lawn service comes by sometimes to mow, but it is clearly not the same. My daughter commented that it was sad to see his yard like that. It used to be so beautiful, she said. We then started to discuss the difference between working for physical and eternal things. No matter how hard we work and how much we accumulate, when we die, we can’t take any of it with us. That is the sting of death…so what really matters in life? This is not to say it is wrong to work hard for things, but that we should be more concerned with a relationship with God and how we live.

This movie portrays a great coach that helped these women tremendously. She broke them out of imprisoned thinking and molded them into better people. She had a lasting impact on the school, as it still continues to this day. Some, as was seen at the end credits, went on to great achievements. The downfall of the movie, though, is the lack of real eternal perspective.

(This is just a movie and it is hard to know the complete story, so forgive me if I am wrong about the real people. All I have to go on what Hollywood has given us.)

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